Senators Keith Ingram (D-West Memphis) and Jimmy Hickey, Jr. (R-Texarkana) will lead a bipartisan effort to abolish the office of lieutenant governor when the legislature convenes in January.
The move will require the approval of voters through a new constitutional amendment. The legislature may refer up to three proposed amendments during each regular session, and Ingram and Hickey said they intend to do so when the 90th General Assembly convenes in January.
“The office is a vestige of the early 19th century, before telephones were common and before computer technology was ever dreamed of,” Ingram said. “Under the Arkansas constitution the lieutenant governor’s only duty is to preside over the Senate and to serve as acting governor when the governor is out of state or unable to discharge the powers of the office.”
“A conservative estimate is that approval of this amendment would save Arkansas taxpayers about $450,000 a year,” Hickey said.
Senators Ingram and Hickey plan to co-sponsor a Senate Joint Resolution, which if adopted by the legislature would refer to the November, 2016, general election ballot a proposed constitutional amendment abolishing the office of lieutenant governor as of January 1, 2019.
There would be no statewide election for the office in 2018. The winner of this year’s contested election for lieutenant governor still would be able to serve out the full four-year term to which he is elected in November.
Currently, the office is vacant due to the resignation of former Lt. Governor Mark Darr (R ), who left the office earlier this year after admitting to ethics violations.
Under Ingram’s and Hickey’s proposal if the governor resigned or was unable to fulfill the duties of the office due to ill health or impeachment, the state attorney general would assume the duties of governor and vacate the office of attorney general.
There would then be a special election to elect a replacement for the attorney general, although the General Assembly could pass laws foregoing an election if fewer than six months remained before the position was to be filled by election.
The Attorney General assuming the office of Governor would appoint a temporary replacement for attorney general who would be ineligible to run for re-election in either a special or general election following his or her appointment.
If the governor left the state, he or she may designate the attorney general to serve as acting governor. If both the governor and attorney general are out of state, the President of the Senate shall be acting governor in their absence. If the Senate President is also out of state, the Speaker of the House would be acting governor.
Under Ingram’s and Hickey’s proposal, the line of succession would be similar to what is in the constitution now, except that the attorney general would replace the lieutenant governor.
“There are many pressing needs for the revenue now being spent on the office of lieutenant governor. People want us to streamline government, and this is a great way to do it,” Ingram said.
Hickey said that he and Ingram were announcing their plan well in advance of the legislative session so that there would be sufficient opportunity to answer any questions the people have.
“I’m confident that when voters are informed about the issue they will be willing to abolish the office,” Hickey said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support for this proposal from people in both political parties, so I’m encouraged.”